Book Title: Song of Kitaba
Author: Mark Everglade
Length: 252 Pages
Published: June 13th, 2022
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Dystopia, Science Fiction > Cyberpunk
Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Mark Everglade, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.
What if the world knew your deepest secrets? What if the government had a monopoly on your thoughts?
In the City of Catonis, everything you think is written across giant screens for public scrutiny, and revolution can only be cloaked with meditation.
Things are the opposite in the Hollow Forest, where people are executed for writing, and ink is rationed for only the tribal council’s use. When the love of her life is killed, Kitaba Mahahara must leave her village and launch a cultural war for human freedom, but she’ll need help. Cybermonks, hactivists, and tech gurus will unite as tradition runs face to face with the oppression that passes for progress.
Two civilizations, one without self-expression, and one forced to reveal everything, will pave a new way for humanity, if they don’t destroy it first.
The book starts off with Kitara making her escape from the Hollow Forest, the only place she’s ever called home. Whereas in the City of Catonis, where your every thought is displayed for the public to see, your life and privacy hold no rights here, with the only escape being meditation to learn and shut your brain off from the constant and unconscious streams of information and words it generates, things are very different in the outer villages.
Life is the complete in the villages; opposite to the big cities. Electricity exists as a basic aid, but otherwise, there’s nothing else: no computers, no drones, and certainly no implants in your brain and sentiscreens displaying your every thought to the world. But, what there IS is the (near) complete silencing of their citizens. Unless you were of upper class, everything from ink and crayons, to even carving messages into rocks, is forbidden. One is of a city that oppresses its people by displaying it all to the world, and the other is one that prevents such expressions. In both, the reasons are the same. If you monitory your people, with or without words, there will be no wars, revolutions, and rebellions. Two extremes and people seem to just…live with it. Some are even happy, because control means safety.
But for Kitaba, things are about to change and she will be the change. She will expose anbd show the world the oppression that hides behind the trees of her home. The only thing is, she’s not the only one with a goal.
This was a pretty enjoyable read. Right from the start, we have an adrenaline pumping scene as Kitaba escapes her village, and it’s not without obstacles. She’s left the village after having stolen illegal goods, not meant for the common folk and poor of Hollow Forest, and the guards after her. Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter, and there are a handful of times they’re so close that she can feel their breath. If you think this kind of action diminishes as she’s safely in Catonis, think again. Regardless of where she goes, Kit manages to attract trouble in every nook, cranny, and corner. Throughout the book, she’s always on the run from something or someone, and the only constant in her life is that she now has allies by her side.
The characters are fun to read, and the world building is fantastic, fascinating, and neither worlds that Kit experiences sounds like a fun place to live. The contrast between the different characters, particularly any tech-saavy individuals placed next to the “girl from the outer villages” was definitely interesting to read especially when she uses her own terms for things (like “complanter”). I really enjoyed reading Kitaba and some other characters like Gaines, the hacker, and his girlfriend Nova, as well as Ciro who is fiercely protective of Kitaba. The characters all have their own set of flaws and some of them are addressed by the end of the book.
Description and world wise, it was pretty neat to read both the technologically advanced Catonis and Hollow Forest. Each has their own distinct government, laws, and both are oppressed in their own extreme ways (show all words or none at all!). I love the description of Catonis, the different technology and lifestyles already dependent on such equipment and implants, though the culture of songs and sea-shell homes of Hollow Forest is nothing short of impressive on their own.
I also really liked the writing and the prose was one of the first things I noted down as soon as I began to read. Descriptions are not over the top, though some occasional world building scenes, whether it was dialogue or descriptive text, felt a little like reading a textbook. There are also some scenes that are dialogue heavy, but the whole thing reads like an impressive movie and I find myself lost in the banters and arguments as well as the philosophy that comes out of Ciro or Kitaba.
Overall: The characters are fleshed out with some fine set of traits, personalities, and (as expected) we get pretty deep with Kitaba’s personal history, but we also get some nice background wit Ciro and even the two supporting characters, Gaine and Nova get their own little chapter, an entire POV from each of them, dedicated to tell their stories to Kit (and thus the audience). The world building is neat, the concept that ink is illegal is pretty interesting, but the most fascinating thing were the cog implants, sentiscreens, and their ability to project your inner and most private thoughts to the world. Social media (essentially the volunterry versions of the involuntarily display of private information to the world) is mentioned in here as well and that was one interesting point of this book. Song of Kitaba really does make you sit down and think about inner thoughts, monitoring, secrecy, and privacy.
A great read of a scary world.